Childhoods lost

Making sense of life on the street

Published: Apr 11 2016, 01:01:am

Thursday, June 20, 1985.
STREET KIDS. A National Film Board of Canada documentary short directed by Peg Campbell. Running time: 22 minutes.
GLIMPSED QUICKLY, BOBBI IS young and good looking. A schoolgirl, perhaps.
    Peg Campbell's camera does not glimpse quickly. In Street Kids, Bobbi's image is fixed on the screen like a photo in a gallery. There is time to study her eyes, and see in them a sadness well beyond her years.
    Sexually molested by her father at nine, Bobbi has been both drug-dependent and a prostitute. Now, with the help of a group home counsellor, she's trying to make some sense of it all.
    They have been discussing personal worth, values and self-esteem. In an attempt to tie it all together, the counsellor asks "what did (your father) take from you?"
    "My childhood," is Bobbi's unexpectedly poignant reply.
     On Saturday [June 22, 1985], Canada's National Film Day, the accent is on youth. Organized by the new Pacific Cine Centre, the day-long celebration offers movie buffs a schedule of 26 domestically-made shorts and the feature Sonatine, a program that runs from 2 p.m. at the Robson Square Cinema.
    Highlighting the event is the world premiere of the locally-made Street Kids, the National Film Board's sober, provocative new documentary on child prostitution. The film, says director Campbell, is designed to dispel the "two major misconceptions" about the subject  — that it is a glamourous way to make a lot of money, or that it is worthless and disgusting, the worst thing that a person can do.
    "Neither is true," says Campbell, 31, who spent two years as a childcare worker in two different Vancouver group homes. "A lot of the kids come out of worse situations.
     "For them the street is a step up."
    Determined to tell the story properly, Campbell sought out a technical approach that would be compelling without being exploitive or sensationalistic. Encouraged by the NFB's John Taylor, she decided on "a film done in still photos. In effect, it's entirely animated."
    The technique fits the material perfectly. When Bobbi says "I don't know why I'm there," we've already "felt" the street as a series of static moments captured in a strobe-like progression of images.
    The distinct and separate photos alter the time sense, giving us a feeling of detachment that is at the same time fixed in a hopeless, unalterable present. Visually, the film succeeds in involving its audience in the street kids' despair.
    Campbell will be present this Saturday evening to introduce her picture. In addition, director Peeter Prince will introduce Rediscovery: The Eagle's Gift, his recently completed [1984] look at Haida culture, and Montreal actresses Marcia Pilote and Pascale Bussières will be on hand to discuss the making of Micheline Lanctôt's feature Sonatine (1984).

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1985. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: As the above review suggests, Peg Campbell is both an artist and and activist. She learned her craft at Simon Fraser University's Film Workshop in the mid-1970s, a time when the newly-built institution was best known for its futuristic architecture and political radicalism. (In 1991, her alma mater honoured her with an Alumni Award for Service to the Community.) An early advocate for local film and video artists, Campbell was a founding member of Cineworks, a cooperative formed in 1980 to promote the production, distribution and exhibition of independent B.C. films. She earned her first Genie Award nomination in 1987 (for her live action short drama It's a Party) and won the 1990 prize  (for her live action short drama In Search of the Last Good Man). Currently, Campbell is an associate professor at Vancouver's Emily Carr University of Art and Design, where she teaches media arts.

See also: Click on the link to go to The National Film Board of Canada's website and view the streaming video of director Peg Campbell's 1985  documentary short Street Kids.